Written by Elizabeth Ann Foster
Rick Miller is passionate about his latest endeavor BOOM. It’s his parent’s story, Baby Boomers, which he plans as the first of a trilogy with Generation X , his story, followed by his children’s Generation Z. BOOM, the first in the trilogy covers 25 years of history 1945 to 1969, brings to life the era through a multimedia time capsule projected onto a cylindrical sheer screen. Any time the audience is brought back to a different year Miller steps into the screen time capsule. Time and place are projected so we can keep track of where we are.
It is a Canadian version of events. Miller is from Montreal. Most of the timeline represents events in the United States as he reviews the terms of each US president. He refers to only one Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who served during the last year of the boom. This was to make a passing reference to his rock star son Justin, now Prime Minister. There are unique Canadian moments out of the hundreds of headlines and events depicted. Five to be precise. The unveiling of the Arrow supersonic jet became a PR disaster eclipsed by the simultaneous launching of Sputnik by Russia. The aforementioned Prime minister Trudeau’s reference. Canada getting its own flag. A riot at a hockey game where tear gas filled the stadium and Newfoundland joining Canada.
Parts are cleverly crafted including a comparison of the whole generation to putting thing in boxes. Eating tv dinners organized in boxed compartments, the proliferation of people moving around in boxes – cars and finally everyone watching a box, television.
What makes this whole production unique is Miller weaving his family’s story into the years, or rather informing the years with his family’s storytelling. His mother Mattie, father Rudi and mother’s lover Laurence guide us through the decades.
Miller’s family stories alone would have been enough for this production, but they were obscured at times. The storyline was crowded out with other diversions. Cramming 26 popular generational songs and top headlines of each of the quarter century was mind boggling, almost exhausting for the audience. This could easily be a play centered around the plight of a black American Laurence, whose mother leaves him as a child to pursue a dream in Hollywood. He dodges the draft and heads to Canada to meet Miller’s mother learning later in life that she aborted their child. He had no say regarding these women or the life of his only child taken from him. Only to sneak back into the United States to see his grandmother before she passed away, and getting arrested and jailed for being a draft dodger. The betrayal. The deep wound. It is disingenuous when Miller says to a projected image of Laurence, “I want to talk to you. To get a darker story…Sorry! Bad choice of words.” Laurence was slighted yet again by Mattie in the form of her son.
This is a Canadian version of the baby boomers.
There were only 2 in the audience from the subsequent generation as we learned during the talk back Miller conducted after the show. Much of the humor and references were lost on them, but the audience at large seemed to enjoy it. Many were tapping their feet and moving to the music. One could hear whispers, “I remember that,” or “I loved that song.”
I came away with a sense of hope and renewal. Realizing how much hatred and suspicion there was during that era, threat of nuclear war, how horribly people treated each other with enforced segregation – today seems tranquil. The political ads showing a nuclear bomb explosion run by Lyndon B. Johnson depicting Barry Goldwater as a war monger were chilling and makes todays ads look like child’s play in comparison (absolutely no reference meant to the child in the Johnson ads picking the petals off a daisy, which is still haunting to me – that was the first time I had seen the ad).
One realizes all this talk of polarization today dwarfs by comparison to the turmoil of the baby boomer generation. Even so, we still need to continue to grow. You walk away realizing we truly have accomplished a great deal, evolving with more civility. While Miller focused on tanks in Prague or killing in Tiananmen Square, one shudders to reflect on the enormous scope of the Vietnam War and the killing of students at Kent State by National Guard soldiers. Perhaps this play characterizes America’s unique culture of often heated democratic debate, supercharged today thanks to social media and immediate satellite communications. We never learn how many Canadians were lost to Vietnam, a curious oversight
Further downtown a review of the years 1945 to 1969 is also taking place in the production Stories of a Life Dan Rather at the Minetta Theater. However, unlike Dan Rather, Miller did not live through the Baby Boomer years.
If you want to see what some Canadians think of America, and how they treated an African American man in particular – this is your ticket. Warning it is not favorable.
BOOM – Written, performed and directed by Rick Miller.
Stage manager Laurel Oneil and Craig Francis; projection designer David Leclerc; lighting design Bruno Matte; composer and sound designer Creighton Doane; sets, costume props designer Yannik Larivée.
Produced by Kidoons and WYRD Productions, BOOM is at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison).BOOM begins performances on Thursday, January 9 for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 23. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Friday at 7:00 pm; Saturday at 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm; Sunday at 2:00 pm. Single tickets are $25 – $70 ($49 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999 or by visiting www.59e59.org. Running time is 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.